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St Olaf College

How this student rated the school
Educational QualityB+ Faculty AccessibilityB+
Useful SchoolworkB+ Excess CompetitionA-
Academic SuccessB+ Creativity/ InnovationA-
Individual ValueB University Resource UseA-
Campus Aesthetics/ BeautyA+ FriendlinessB+
Campus MaintenanceA+ Social LifeB+
Surrounding CityC+ Extra CurricularsB+
Describes the student body as:

Describes the faculty as:

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Super Brilliant
Lowest Rating
Surrounding City
Highest Rating
Campus Aesthetics/ Beauty
She cares more about Individual Value than the average student.
Date: Jun 08 2010
Major: English (This Major's Salary over time)
I transferred out of St. Olaf after a year and a half. I was going through personal problems, and I took most of them out on the school.

Overall, I would say the positives outweigh the negatives at St. Olaf, and that my own personal experience was a good one (or I could have 'made it' a good one, if that makes sense) but the school is NOT for everyone.

First, the positives.

1) Beautiful campus: This will almost unquestionably be the first thing that draws you to the school. The landscaping and architecture of St. Olaf College are simply stunning. The town is "cute" or "quaint," and the school and surrounding town have a ton of hiking trails/natural lands.

2) Great facilities: Almost all facilities/buildings are new or rennovated, state of the art, and top notch. The rec center is amazing, and it has a big climbing wall. The library is huge, has a very interesting design, and is properly stocked. The Student Commons (Buntrock Commons) is a very cool building with an awesome bandstage/club area where a good amount of bands do actually go to play—don't count on any national acts coming in, but definitely great music nontheless (in case you've been living in a hole, music is kinda a big deal here.) Food is actually decent (some poll rated St. Olaf's caf's one of the best caf's in the nation—I don't know about that, but the food's pretty good.) Freshman dorms aren't very nice (probably about average for a college), but the upperclass dorms get better.

3: Every prof I had was extremely knowledgable. They are, for the most part, willing to meet with you, too (just like any college, you have to be willing to take the initiative if you need to talk with them.)

4. Nice people: While the student population is far from diverse (more on demographics later), the overwhelming majority could be described as nice. While many students are friendly, too, there are more nice students than friendly ones (note that I do not consider the two characteristics to be the same thing.)

Now, the negatives:

1: Northfield: During your visit, the admissions office will bend over backwards to try to convince you that, although small, Northfield IS a fun town to be in. While it is certainly a liveable (and rather pretty) town, and there ARE fun activities to be found there, I still consider St. Olaf's location to be an overall negative point. With several small shops and cafe's along main street (and a FEW bars…see next point), it can seem really 'neat…' a great town to visit, maybe. But, Northfield is simply too small, lacks any real diversity of race, religion, or lifestyle, and is basically in the middle of nowhere—the twin cities are about an hour north, but if you live less than 200 miles from campus, you aren't allowed to have a car on campus (I lived about 150 miles south of Northfield.)

2. Straight-laced sober and overly academic: Although the academics are excellent, I found it sometimes scary how much nonstop commitment the students there have to academics, only to spend their free-time on the weekends free-reading 16th-century literature or engaging in discussions about whether Gilgamesh or Beowulf was more of a male chauvinist. While I know of a lot of schools that seem to abide by the "work hard, play hard" mentality (including Olaf's cross-town rival, Carleton), I feel the mantra "work hard, avoid pleasure" might be a more suitable one for St. Olaf students. I don't consider myself a "party animal" by any means, but after awhile I just got fed up with the party situation. As a freshman, it was sometimes hard to even find parties on the weekend, unless you wanted to hang out with the "bro's and ho's" type crowd. Basically, there were a small group of extremely straight-laced students who wouldn't be caught dead drinking, a small group of hardcore partiers, those "bro's and ho's" I mentioned earlier (ostracized by the rest of campus), and the majority of students, who get drunk about twice a semester. Which brings me to the next point:

3: "Minnesota nice" mentality is rampant: Yes, I mentioned it earlier, the students, faculty, and staff tend to be very nice. But they are also very cliquey, and while they might smile and nod when they first meet you, it is not always easy to make genuine friends. A lot of students here tend to be good at EVERYTHING and tend to hang out only with equally-brilliant people. Also, while the school does a lot to promote itself as a liberal, progressive institution, the vast majority of students come from upper-middle class families from the TC area or Chicago. I came from a more rural area and a poorer family than most of the students there, and although few students came off as "snobby," I sometimes felt people were being condescending to me whenever our respective socioeconomic backgrounds came up in discussion. The student population is also overwhelmingly white and Christian (the fact that I am agnostic scared people) and although they claim to be tolerant towards homosexuality, the few gays that I met on campus all seem to agree that St. Olaf is not a great environment for them. One other quick note on tolerance- I started smoking a lot of pot during my second semester at school (which I don't advise anyway), and most of the people I had met first semester, "friend" or even casual acquaintance, wanted NOTHING to do with me after they found out that I had even so much as TRIED pot. I don't advise doing drugs while you are going somewhere to get an education, but if you like the ganja, this is NOT the school for you.

4- Overpriced. Yes, St. Olaf is a great school, but from an economic standpoint, there are much better investments one could make towards their future. I forget the exact number, but the tuition, room and board, and other fees well exceeded $40,000 when I was a student there, and I'm sure they've only gone up. I have heard some very mixed reports about St. Olaf's career-placement. I know that every school in America has "some" students who graduate and don't bother looking for a job afterwards, but by all the statistics I've seen, St. Olaf's career-placement rate is relatively low. I had the campus-job of calling alumni for donations in my one-and-a-half years as a student there (a boring but bearable job), and the majority of recent graduates (as in, those who graduated 5 or fewer years ago) had either no job or a job that their degree didn't even help them get—and many still lived with their parents. I frequently heard the complaint, from parents and alumni alike, that St. Olaf "does not prepare students for the real world," and I can totally see that. Nontheless, if you are an Ole who takes initiative, you can probably land a successful career—it's just that, from an economic standpoint, there are probably better colleges to help you launch that career. St. Olaf doesn't have much name-power outside of Minneapolis, and is basically "four years in a bubble."

All in all, St. Olaf is just about the ideal "liberal arts" college experience, but with less drinking. I cannot stress enough that, while the school calls itself non-religious, it is predominantly Christian, and is quite sober. If sobriety and piety is what you are looking for in a school, and if you are someone who is literally good at everything, then you will absolutely love this school. School spirit is incredibly high here. I lost my spirit early, but you could do a lot worse than to go to St. Olaf College.

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